Raider Nation figures to crumble next year

Feb 4, 2003 8:18 AM

What’s an NFL sports bettor to do at this time of year? Another season is in the books, the coaching changes are being finalized, and the draft seems a long way off. Is Arena Football the place to turn?

Well, one option that keeps your hand in the game during the off-season is to follow some of the future book offerings. First of all, future bets tend to be by and large lousy bets.

With the added exposure for the sportsbook, the house sets odds that as a whole are less than generous. Still, they are fun bets in that they offer a full season’s worth of action, and probably an area where there hasn’t been a great deal of study.

Three common future options are picking a team to win its division, picking a team to win the conference, and picking a team to win the Super Bowl. Let’s examine all three of these for starters.

The pervading attitude towards the NFL these days is that there is tremendous parity. With the brutal salary cap coming into play, teams rise and fall quickly.

Here is a look at how teams with certain regular season won-lost records have performed the following year.

The instances where teams have certain wins is generally small, and tiny in some of the outlying areas of the table. Also, as of last year, the NFL has increased the number of divisions from six to eight, thereby making it considerably more likely a team will win its division.

With 32 teams currently, it’s a 25% shot that a "blind" team will take the crown. In the 2001 season, a random team had just a 19% chance of being a division champion.

There was a fair amount of turnover in division titles, with a decent number of squads that were .500 or worse the previous year coming out on top. Conference champions though are much more likely to come from the top area of the chart.

It would likely be foolish to bet these percentages blindly (i.e. taking any team off a 12 win season at 2-1 or better odds). However, it’s worth keeping the history in mind before plunking down money on a bet that won’t cash for almost 12 months in the best of cases. Just because "your team" managed to get 10 wins in this past season isn’t reason enough to jump on them as the next Super Bowl kings. History shows bettors are not likely to see odds lower than 40-1.

Another area of interest is how have teams done after advancing deep into the playoffs in a given year:

There’s reason for optimism if you’re a Bucs fan (believe me, there’s lots of reasons to be optimistic!) but the path ahead for Oakland is fraught with danger. It’s not just because the Raiders are an aging team with huge salary cap problems.

The Titans and Eagles could benefit from stats showing that there’s been a respectable number of conference runners-up that have come back to win the Super Bowl the next year.

Finally, bettors may wonder how teams that won their division by at least four games in a season have fared the following year:

These numbers seem to be of particular promise for future players, although the downside is that the number of instances is so small. Still, teams that win their division by 2 games are generally installed as the favorite to win again the next season. However, teams that do have accomplished the goal less than 1-in-3 tries.

Teams that won by a commanding four-plus games are usually offered up the next at very chalky prices, but they too are suspect as repeaters. There’s likely some value going against these "false favorites." Division winners by 2+ games have only repeated 38 percent of the time as a group.

Of course, the change to four-team divisions will probably increase the odds of one club winning again, but there’s some food for thought in this domain.

Well, the NFL is done and our research will turn to horse racing in the coming weeks. There’s more information on the web site in the NFL.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Roland Beach can be contacted via email at [email protected]